Fast-food chicken growing in popularity

Chicken has become the second most popular item in Australian Quick service restaurants (QSR), approaching burger – a traditional fast food leader, according to research by The NPD Group. Over the last three years, QSR chicken has increased 2.8 % in traffic while the QSR burger increased by 1.6 %. The whole foodservice industry was able to grow only by 0.5 % since 2017, and the entire QSR channel grew 0.8 % in a period from October 2017 till September 2019.

Millennial consumers (those aged from 18 to 34 years old) are the main buyers and consume 42 per cent of chicken servings in the foodservice industry. “Chicken is getting even more attention from Millennials who have increased their share of visits to QSR Chicken outlets by 4.6 per cent above any other age group in the last three years, – explains Seton Leung, head of Australia Foodservice, The NPD Group Australia.

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Millennials are quite sensitive to prices and feel the economy stagnation more strongly than others. Instead of a beef burger with French fries, they are ordering chicken wings or nuggets”. The average eater cheque of QSR chicken visit is $9.38 and increased by 1.5 per cent in the last three years (In comparison, QSR Burger average cheque has risen by 2.7 per cent).

QSR Chicken has always sold more chicken than any other restaurant or foodservice outlet: it has generated 36.6% of chicken servings consumption in the foodservice industry, commanding 8.4% of foodservice visits. Chicken consumption is most likely to happen during the main meal, with more than 1 in 2 servings of chicken going to lunch, while dinner generates 40% orders (in a year October 2018 – September 2019).

Consumers see chicken as a healthier and lighter option than beef because of a widespread belief that red meat has high cholesterol levels, and doctors suggest that consumers should limit red meat consumption to a few meals a week. According to The NPD Group, 8.8 per cent of customers mentioned that they had chosen the QSR chicken outlet because it offers healthy options compared to 7.5 per cent of the total occasions in the foodservice industry.

Families with kids are ordering chicken more often. Consumption by families in QSR grew 14 per cent compared to a year ago. Kids are key influencers on where the family is going to have lunch or dinner. They often choose chicken QSR because fried chicken is easy to share and served alongside a variety of condiments like BBQ or mustard sauces . Parents usually don’t mind the higher price, according to The NPD Group, and coupled with the kids’ influence, are two main motivations to visit chicken QSR.

QSR chicken operators have been effectively targeting families with group bundle promotions for most of 2019. In addition to special promotions, value packs and seasonal menu items have helped operators to generate traffic. Thirty-seven per cent of QSR Chicken consumers mentioned that they utilised some form of deal in their visits, compared to 27 per cent of deal-led consumers in the food service industry.

For most of 2019, QSR chicken operators had been using different promotions to target clients and specifically families. Value packs, seasonal menu items, and special offers have helped operators to generate traffic: 37 per cent of QSR Chicken consumers mentioned that they utilised some form of deal in their visits, compared to 27 per cent of deal-led consumers in the foodservice industry.

The top five chicken dishes (ranked by servings share of total chicken dishes) in QSR (October 2018-September 2019) are:

  1. Burger/Sandwiches (46 per cent)
  2. Nuggets/Strips (17 per cent)
  3. Wraps (14 per cent)
  4. Fried Chicken Pieces (9 per cent)
  5. Grilled/Roast Chicken (8 per cent)

Another reason why Millennials and other consumers are switching to chicken is their concern about climate change. “This generation sees climate change as their challenge and believe that the impact of each individual counts towards the societal whole, believes Seton Leung. – Chicken has a much lower carbon footprint and requires ten times less energy and resources in production than beef”. According to the NPD Group, beef consumption by Millennials has fallen by -2.3 per cent in the last three years.